In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.
Johnnie loves his train ("The General") and Annabelle Lee. When the Civil War begins he is turned down for service because he's more valuable as an engineer. Annabelle thinks it's because he's a coward. Union spies capture The General with Annabelle on board. Johnnie must rescue both his loves. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Based on a true incident during the Civil War. In April 1862 Union agent James J. Andrews led a squad of 21 soldiers on a daring secret raid. Dressed in civilian clothes, Andrews and his men traveled by rail into the Southern states. Their mission was to sabotage rail lines and disrupt the Confederate army's supply chain. At the town of Big Shanty, GA, (now known as Kennesaw, Georgia) the raiders stole a locomotive known as "The General." They headed north, tearing up track, burning covered bridges and cutting telegraph lines along the way. William Fuller and Jeff Cain, the conductor and engineer of "The General," pursued the stolen train by rail and foot. They first used a hand-cart (as Buster Keaton does in the film), then a small work locomotive called "The Yonah," which they borrowed from a railroad work crew, and finally a full-sized Confederate army locomotive called "The Texas," which pursued "The General" for 51 miles--in reverse. During the chase Confederate soldiers were able to repair the sabotaged telegraph wires and send messages ahead of the raiders. Andrews and his men were intercepted and captured near Chattanooga, TN, by a squad of Confederate troops led by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest (who, after the war, was one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan). Tried as spies, Andrews and seven of his raiders were hanged (a special gallows was built to hold all eight men). The rest of the raiders were traded in a prisoner exchange. In 1863 the survivors of the mission were awarded the first Medals of Honor (Andrews and the raiders who had been hanged later received the medal posthumously). Although this film is a comedy, the incident was later filmed by Walt Disney as a drama, The Great Locomotive Chase (1956), with Fess Parker--a Southerner, born in Texas--as Andrews. See more »
Annabelle gets drenched when she and Johnnie stop for water, but as they return to the engine, her dress is dry. See more »
No one will top Keaton for physical risk, and risk is what deep film experiences are all about. This might be classed as a comedy, but for me it touches deeply enough. Its about a man who needs to prove himself by taking risks and being true. And its by a man who takes even greater risks and is more true. True to the spirit of the social compact, here displayed as the chummy south.
He's always done stunts that amaze. Many of his other films have things in them that if the timing were only a little off, he'd be seriously injured, or die. But this takes the cake. Its almost as if he started with the idea that he'd have three locos to play with and had a year to think up stunts.
And the stunts are so physical! And so dangerous. And so, so very effective.
His trademark is the deadpan face placed as a sort of innocent cluelessness. Its particularly funny when you see the physical movements and you know that 1) they take incredible preparation and timing to pull off and 2) the fellow you see that looks so puzzled by the reality you see is the guy that devised and directed those stunts.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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